ORLANDO -- The opening stretch of the season needed a rewrite. Not just because the Washington Wizards only won five of 13 games, but also the repetitive narrative. Wizards take a healthy lead. Wizards fall behind. Wizards lose. Then factor in the monotonous and gloomy road angle. Washington had yet to win away from Verizon Center entering Friday's rematch at Orlando.
Perhaps the final 6:05 of the 94-91 victory over the Magic will serve as a catalyst for a team still seeking an identity. If nothing else, there's a new chapter and one worth repeating.
The Wizards led by 19 points in the first quarter, but only 72-68 entering the fourth. When Magic guard Evan Fournier's 3-pointer was followed by D.J. Augustin's 3-point play, the Wizards trailed 80-76. The home crowd inside the Amway Center roared, just as they did on Nov. 5 when Washington was outscored 27-16 in the final period of an 88-86 loss.
"The biggest thing was our intensity and our defense," guard Bradley Beal said of the difference between the two games. "We were physical and played hard for 48 minutes regardless of what the score was. That's the biggest difference."
This time, Washington made the winning plays. Otto Porter's two 3-pointers sandwiched a deep shot by Augustin. Marcin Gortat layups accounted for Washington's next two field goals and put the Wizards up for good.
Yet what truly fueled the victory occurred when Orlando had possession. After Augustin's 3-pointer, the Wizards held the Magic without a point on five straight possessions. Combined with the Porter 3-pointer's, the Gortat layup's and John Wall's, late game wizardry, Washington held on.
"I thought our guys did a good job of competing," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "In order to win on the road, you have to win on the defensive end. I thought we did that throughout the game."
That was especially true early -- Washington led 26-7 in the first quarter and Orlando had 15 turnovers in the first half -- and late.
"In the first quarter we had a big lead -- and it started to go away," Wall said. "In the third quarter...we were not making shots or playing well. We still defended at a high clip."
Is Orlando a miserable offensive team, one that entered ranked 29th in scoring? Yes, but the Miami Heat labor in that area and yet put 114 on the scoreboard during a win in Washington.
Are the Magic a playoff contender? Probably not but who cares at this point, especially after recent losses to the Heat and Philadelphia 76ers, two of the five straight foes with losing records faced by Washington. The Wizards (5-9) just need some momentum. Going 3-2 over their last five helps the cause heading into Saturday's meeting against San Antonio.
Did the Wizards simply win this game with the Magic because Wall played after sitting out the previous meeting? Obviously, that helps. That Wall is also moving closer toward peak conditioning after coming off two knee surgeries cannot be ignored.
This road win gets dismissed if Washington reverts back to the previous narrative. Perhaps it won't be fair judging the outcome against the title-contending Spurs, but wins can't just come against teams headed to the next draft lottery. If the Wizards combine resolve and effort going forward regardless of any momentum changes, then perhaps this regular season ends with an uplifting conclusion. For now, Washington takes the win and flips the road woes page.
"It was a big win altogether whether it was at home or on the road," Porter said. "That is two in a row and we are just trying to take it one game at a time."
Cliches equal bad writing. That approach works just fine for a team seeking positive momentum.